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by crandell | 08/14/2007
Parking policies can have a significant impact on our urban environment, deciding whether your neighborhood looks like Little Paris or Little Schaumburg. The city decides the minimum number of off-street parking spaces required for different kinds of development, from condos to bars, and sets the cost of on-street parking meters. These seemingly innocuous policies also influence developers’ decisions about what to build in your neighborhood, indirectly shaping your blocks.
As concerns about parking shortages have grown, neighborhoods have been complaining that new development is straining the limited parking supply. In response, some neighborhoods are downzoning in an effort to limit the number of new residents (and cars), or requiring that new developments include more than the city minimum requirement of one parking space per unit in exchange for zoning changes.
But we don’t really have parking shortages in the city – the same neighborhoods complaining about parking shortages often have parking garages that sit half-empty. We only have shortages of free parking, which is not something we should be in the business of providing anyway.
Often parking becomes an end in and of itself rather than a means to improve access to homes and businesses. Parking should be part of a larger strategy for access rather than treated as the only means of access.